For art lovers, the Downeast landscape boasts striking outdoor stone sculptures that pop up in 28 towns from Bucksport to Calais. Twenty-two more pieces await discovery across the U.S.-Canada border in the greater St. John area in New Brunswick.
Starting in 2007, sculptors hailing from all over the world — from Egypt to Japan — spent much of their summer carving locally quarried granite (even black) and basalt in scenic towns and cities in coastal and inland Maine as part of the inaugural Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium.
The symposium’s aim was to enrich cultural life in the Downeast region and “to engage individuals and Maine communities in public art,” the founders summed up.
Spearheaded by Steuben sculptor Jesse Salisbury, a total of five six-week sessions of the annual symposium were held between 2007 and 2014. All were held in Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro on the Schoodic Peninsula except for one year at the University of Maine in Orono.
The sculptures range widely, from Tenant’s Harbor sculptor Lise Becu’s “Spirit of the Marsh,” a black granite piece inspired and shaped in part by a great blue heron, to Polish artist Dominika Griesgraber’s piece “Transitory” in Milbridge.
Chosen as part of a juried process, the participating sculptors received a stipend, housing, materials and technical support during their stay. The symposium also involved many, diverse Maine communities that contributed funds for the public art. Some local residents also served as hosts for the artists and volunteered their time in many other ways.
During the sessions, the public was welcome to watch the artists working on their pieces. School- and college-age students also got a chance to see the action and finished results.
If you are really adventurous you can follow the trail from Calais into St. Stephens, or from Lubec and Campobello via ferry to St. Andrews, New Brunswick to discover 22 more sculptures in St. John and surrounding towns, created by a sister project modeled after the Maine project, called Sculpture St. John. Together the two trails are known as the International Sculpture Trail.
Earlier this year, “Creating the Maine Sculpture Trail: A Legacy of the International Sculpture Symposium” was published. The book is a comprehensive account of the project in words and photos.
To learn more or download the Maine Sculpture Trail map, visit www.schoodicsculpture.org. To learn more about Sculpture Saint John, visit www.sculpturesaintjohn.com.